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Journey to my MBA

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hey MBA Applicant! Lay off the buggin! Use Your Head!

I often hear of stories about how really crazy questions are flung at B-School Admissions Staff. I also understand how exceptionally insecure or overly aggressive people cross the line of calling or contacting them one too many times on one too many ridicilous issues.

I was at a Columbia Info Session once and during the Q&A portion of the evening, one Indian foreigner asked Linda B Mahan, the assistant Dean and executive director for admissions and financial aid, whether he should get married before going to B-School. Apparently, he wanted to know if the work-load would be too much too allow him fly back to India, pick up a wife and start school. I wanted to walk up to him and slap him on the back-side of his head. Instead, I merely lowered my head and wished the shame of the moment to linger as little as possible.

I've responded to numerous questions from people who got a 700 on the their GMAT and
were tormenting themselves as to whether or not they should retake the GMAT to get at least a 710, which was the average of the school. They just couldn't live with being 10 points lower.

There have been many times when I've received impolite communications from people who either insisted on my help or were pissed that I didn't respond on the same day of an e-mail that was sent to me. I've been cyber bullied so many times. I really get fed up with it at times. Many of the admissions staff become so jaded as well. My work background and personal contacts have allowed me to see and experience many Admissions staff do the "upward rolling eyes" thing either physically or mentally more times than I can count. I really don't like seeing that happen.

Admissions staff are human! Treat them like you would like to be treated. Jade one and you ruin it for yourself the next time you call. Moreover, you push the staff person to an ugly place that isn't good for anyone. If you really are that tactless, then Hey! Please ignore what I'm saying. You'll ruin your chances so that the guy/gal who deserves the spot will deservingly receive it.

There are just so many situations that don't require a call to a B-School. This was an interesting article written by Kerry. And although, Kerry doesn't say it, I got the distinct impression that B-Schools mentioned in the article all wish a message could go out to every MBA Applicant to say that they have no problem in working with applicants. But, if an applicant get's "clingy" or "pushy", that they'd rather not have you apply at all. - Dave
By Kerry Miller

When "Persistent" Becomes "Pushy"
Some applicants cross the line when it comes to contacting B-school admissions offices. Overdoing it could derail an application
At Virginia's Darden School they're called "Nerve Pluckers": the dozen or so applicants who, every year, demand far more than their fair share of the admissions committee's time. They bombard the admissions office with calls and e-mails, drop by unannounced, and disrespect the secretary. They go by different names (hasslers, net takers, or just "oh, those"). But this overly aggressive breed of applicant is a familiar—and unwelcome—type in most B-school admissions offices. And while going overboard isn't necessarily a make-or-break factor in admissions decisions, it certainly doesn't help.

Admissions officers agree that the hard-core hasslers make up a very small chunk of the applicant pool. Still, many have noticed that candidates in general seem to be losing patience and demanding quicker turnaround time with their questions. "We like to be responsive to all our applicants, but now students expect an immediate reply," says Christie St-John, senior associate director of admissions at Dartmouth's Tuck School. "Sometimes we're traveling and don't have access to e-mail, but we still get repeated follow-ups saying, 'Why haven't you answered my question?—even after they get an out-of-office message." What's most annoying, she says, is when applicants send the same list of questions to multiple members of the admissions committee, or re-send a question to a different admissions officer when they don't like the answer they got the first time.

"If it were just annoying, then, well, that's our job," says Everette Fortner, interim director of admissions at Darden. But admissions officers agree that how a candidate communicates with a school during the admissions process is a useful indicator of an applicant's maturity, judgment, and people skills. Make a bad impression, and chances are it won't go unnoticed by the admissions committee. "We track that kind of behavior, because it can carry over into the classroom and the workplace," says Tad Brinkerhoff, director of student recruiting at Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business. Impolite or overly demanding behavior, he says, has been a deciding factor in more than a few admissions decisions in the past.

MIND-BOGGLING. One of the worst mistakes, many admissions directors agree, is treating the front-desk office staffers poorly. "It always boggles my mind," says Thomas Caleel, director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Penn's Wharton School, when applicants are rude or condescending to the office operations staff. Carrie Marcinkevage, MBA Admissions Director at Penn State's Smeal College of Business, says that what really rankles is when students make a hierarchical distinction between the admissions officers and the office staff, "only sucking up to the people they think count." But every year, it happens—and results in a non-too-favorable data point in applicants' files.

Trying too hard to drum up a rapport with admissions officers doesn't go over too well, either. "When you don't have a question, but you're calling anyway—or asking constant questions about things you can get off the Web site, you get a sense that they're just trying to hype up the relationship," says Rose Martinelli, associate dean of student recruitment and admissions at University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

At career fairs, admissions officers also take note of students who hover at one booth for hours, instead of circulating. "Stalking an admissions rep certainly doesn't help an applicant," says Fortner. And casually dropping by the admissions office on the day decisions are due isn't the best idea, says Anne Coyle, director of admissions at the Yale School of Management. Though rare, "sometimes it even ends with the police getting involved."

WAIT-LISTERS WAIVER. Many candidates don't realize that they aren't off the radar outside the admissions office, either. Applicants are being judged at every point of contact they have with a school, whether it be with a professor, a student, or an alumnus. "In any of those interactions, many applicants don't seem to understand that those could end up in their file, and they don't treat them with the level of respect they deserve," says Assistant Dean David Garza at University of Texas's McCombs School of Business. One McCombs applicant visiting a class talked through the entire lecture; another used inappropriate language in an e-mail exchange with an alum. Reports of their misbehavior got back to the admissions office on both occasions.

Admissions officers are generally more forgiving with anxious wait-listed candidates, but applicants should be careful to follow each school's precise instructions. While wait-list policies can vary significantly from school to school, the one thing that is universal is the importance of following directions. Some schools welcome extra materials, while others specify they only want to hear about new developments that might affect a candidacy, such as new GMAT scores or a promotion at work. And some schools, like Wharton, don't want to hear anything from wait-listed candidates at all—or from anybody else (an alum, a parent, a CEO) who the applicant might ask to intervene on his or her behalf.

Even though many admissions offices welcome communications from wait-listed students, applicants should always be aware of the difference between showing interest and being too persistent, says Soojin Koh, interim director of admissions at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. For example, sending multiple e-mails reiterating his interest to everyone on the admissions committee, is "not that helpful," and reflects poorly on the professionalism and judgment of the candidate.

And while the pressure of being wait-listed may be intense, pushing admissions officers to make a decision, for example, by saying "I need to know by this date" doesn't usually produce favorable results. Every year, says St-John, her office gets a few "whiners" who complain: "Why do I have to wait till the next round? Why can't you tell me now?" Responses like that, she says, raise questions about the candidate's ability to handle stress.

The bottom line, admissions officers say: "Don't bite the hand that feeds you."

Kerry Miller is a reporter for in New York


Anonymous Daniel said...

In some info sessions I attended to,some people was asking things that were on the welcome page of the program web site...

12:17 PM  

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